Conducting Human Rights Due Diligence and Tackling Negative Effects

This essay discusses the steps of conducting human rights due diligence; these include the following: Defining and evaluating actual and expected negative human rights effects, preventing and mitigating negative human rights effects, and finally investigating whether negative human rights effects are being tackled, and clarified in the ways  negative human rights effects are tackled..

Firstly, there is a need to define and evaluate  actual and expected negative human rights effects which may result from business enterprises’ activities or their relationships; this aims at understanding the specific negative human rights effects on specific individuals considering a specific context of operations. In a sense, the  process involves identifying human rights from carrying out suggested business action. Then, it is important to identify the affected individuals especially those who are more vulnerable to risks; this entails identifying human rights standards, and how the business action and its relationships may have negative human rights effects on those individuals. The process of evaluating human rights effects should consider all international human rights as a reference point inasmuch as business enterprises may affect any of these rights. Accordingly business enterprises should realise that human rights are dynamic; therefore, they ought to evaluate human rights effects at regular intervals; such an evaluation should be conducted before the new activity, throughout the life of the activity, and when responding to the operating environment . In order to assess human rights effects carefully, business enterprises should rely on relevant internal or external experiences, and in the meantime, consult the expected affected stakeholders directly and effectively by considering the size of the enterprise ,and the nature of the operation, or any other consulting credible resources.

Secondly, preventing and mitigating negative human rights effects. This process occurs through  the effective integration of evaluation results pertaining the negative human rights effects with the internal functions and the relevant process. For effective integration, negative human rights effects tackling should be assigned to the suitable internal functions and processes in the business enterprises; the policy commitment should be embedded into all business functions. In this regard, easy Internal decision-making, budget allocation, and monitoring system are also required. The purpose of this integrations is to ensure that the results of evaluation are understood, considered, and acted upon . As a result of this integration, potential effects should be prevented or mitigated, whereas the actual ones should be subject for remediation.

On the other hand, the process of negative human rights effects tackling will differ according to business enterprise relationship with negative human rights effects and its leverage to address them. For illustration, it is essential to determine whether  business enterprise caused or contributed to negative human rights effects. If business enterprise caused or may have caused negative human rights effects, it ought to take the substantive procedures to prevent these effects. Whereas, in a case of its contribution, business enterprise ought to take the substantive procedures to prevent its contribution or use its ability to make change in the illegal practices of an entity that causes a harm, and reduce the negative impacts to the maximum level. The situation will be more difficult when business enterprise has not contributed to negative human rights effects, but those effects are associated directly with its operations, services or products as result of its business relationship with another business enterprise. In a such situation, identifying the suitable action will  involve various factors such as the extent of the business enterprise’s ability over the concerned one, the importance of this relationship, the intensity of the abuse, and whether terminating the relationship with this entity would have negative effect or not. In case the situation has become more and more complex, the business enterprise can consult an independent expert. If the enterprise is lacking leverage over the other entity, it should seek to increase it through different ways like capacity- building or collaborating with other actors. In the same context, if the enterprise cannot increase its leverage, it must stop its relationship with the entity considering potential negative human rights effects of doing so. Sometimes, business relationship termination will be more negative than continuing it. For example, if enterprise B depends on enterprise A in providing their products and no alternative source exists, here, the relationship is considered crucial. Thus, enterprise A must consider the magnitude of negative effects; as result, a decision should be made whether to  end or continue this business relationship. The more severe the abuse, the more quickly the enterprise will change before making a decision on ending the relationship or not, but in case the abuse continues, and the relationship remains, the enterprise should do the best to reduce the negative human rights effects and be prepared to any consequences of the continuing relationship.

Thirdly, investigating whether negative human rights effects are being tackled; this will happen through following the response to human rights effects on individuals by business enterprises. Following up aims to ensure that human rights policies are being performed properly, the response to identify the negative human rights effects, and to drive improvement. For effective follow-up process, business enterprises ought to rely on appropriate qualitative and quantitative indicators. For example, they should rely on questionnaires, audit reports, performance contracts reviews. They also can rely on feedback from both internal and external sources such as affected individuals.

The final step is the ways through which negative human rights effects are tackled. For doing so, business enterprises ought to communicate with affected individuals. Communication has several forms such as personal meetings, online conversations, and corporate responsibility/sustainability reports. The communication ought to be frequent and accessible to intended individuals; it should also provide adequate information clarifying the extent of enterprise response to negative human rights effects, and not pose risks to affected individuals.

Shortly, business enterprises should respect human rights in practices through having policies and processes which provide a measure of transparency and accountability. Moreover, they should conduct human rights due diligence involving assessment of potential or actual human rights impacts,  thus preventing and mitigating them, and finally tracking to identify whether they are being tackled and the ways of tackling negative human rights effects.